Senior Kyle Petersen Premieres Debut Film

George Wolff

February 2, 2024 Academics, Communications

Ice Climbers of Starved Rock crop

ONU senior Kyle Petersen from Peru, Illinois is not waiting until graduation to get started on his film career. In fact, his first feature premiere, Ice Climbers of Starved Rock, will be Saturday, February 3 in a sold-out presentation at the Roxy Theatre in Ottawa, Illinois.

Petersen’s love of nature began at an early age, spending time hiking and photographing wildlife in the canyons of Illinois’ Starved Rock State Park. His companion for many of those hikes was friend and neighbor, Matthew Klein. Amateur filmmaking came next, with many self-taught techniques learned from YouTube and other online tutorials. Before long, the pair was investing their extra income on drone cameras and high-end film equipment.

Nearly three years ago, Petersen and Klein had an idea: We both love film making. Why don’t we do something crazy—make a documentary about something brand new to us? Petersen was needing to complete a large-scale “Capstone” project for part of his Olivet degree in Multimedia Studies, so the timing was perfect.

Ice Climbing was a subject not only brand new to them, but most who hear the term. When they discovered an elite group of ice climbers who regularly scale the cliffs in their beloved nearby Starved Rock, their idea grew wings. Kyle would Direct the film, and Matthew would serve as Producer.

“One day while I was out shooting, I just introduced myself to some ice climbers. I took some photos, got their contact information and shared the work with them,” said Petersen. Soon after he met Wes Black, one of the local hikers, who in turn connected the pair of filmmakers to Dave Everson, the master ice climber in the region. Both Everson and Black are interviewed in the film.

Dr. Heather McLaughlin, Chair of the ONU Department of Communication says Kyle is, “certainly a superstar from our program. He came into the program with a significant amount of experience, and his finished project is clearly one of the best we have seen.”

The 30-minute feature documentary, Ice Climbers of Starved Rock will be presented in two separate showings, sponsored by Heritage Corridor Destinations, Starved Rock Hikers, and Enjoy Illinois – a division of the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity.

Kyle Petersen

Fox News Chicago recently covered the feature on their evening news.

“I am not really comfortable being in front of the camera, so that’s all new,” said Petersen. “Seeing myself on the news was pretty cool, though. It’s nice to see so many people interested in our passion project.”

When asked about what comes next for the pair of filmmakers, Petersen said, “I’m still a full-time residential student at Olivet, and Matthew is completing his master’s degree at Bradley University. We had no idea how large the scale of this project would become, or how invested we would become in the project. Making all this happen has taken a lot of work.”

Petersen and Klein do plan to enter the film in several film festivals, and they have already secured a sponsor to present the film to audiences in the Bourbonnais-Kankakee area, as well.

“We are open to anything,” said Petersen. “This process has been terrific. I could see us doing another documentary in the future.”

Watch the Official Ice Climbers of Starved Rock Trailer

Watch the FoxNews Feature

Ice Climbers of Starved Rock poster

Ice Climbers of Starved Rock poster

George Wolff

George Wolff ’94 is a singer, actor and Creative Director and Partner with 989Group.

Student on main campus wearing pink sweater and holding water bottle.

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